I apologize for the long narrative! But I want to give a complete picture. 

I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, comments, suggestions, and recommendation on this. I work for a software company, specifically the Professional Services part of the company. Like many Consulting companies, we have a Matrix based organization. Until 5 years back, we had the Deliver Manager role, which served the functional manager role. At that time, we had about 100 Consultants total including PM, Technical, and Business Analyst roles. We had about 10 Deliver Managers, each managing about 10 Consultants. The division was based on industry vertical but we also had horizontal teams. When Consultants were on projects, they also 'reported' to Project Managers. This model was working well from a functional manager to employee relationship stand-point. The Delivery Managers were primarly non-billable and it was hurting our bottom line. So our executive management team decide to get rid of the Deliver Manager role and introduced what's called the "Coaches". The idea was to basically find top performing Consultants (mostly senior Consultants) and give them managerial responsibilities. Each Coach was assigned anywhere between 1-4 Coachees. Coaches were responsible for their Coachees Career progression, provide necessary support/mentoring, handle adminstrative tasks. Coaches did not have any financial responsibilities. No financial information (salary, bonus, equity) were shared with the Coaches. 

We had a multi-tier coaching structure. The top level coaches were reporting to Delivery Directors. We had 3. Few senior Consultants understood the role very well and started mentoring their Coachees. The relationship flourished. But for most of the Consultants, the model did not work. They missed the manager-employee relationship. They did not even know what their Coaches role was. 

Now, we have over 300 Consultants. The model still remains. However, we now have a new role called the Consulting Manager. I am one of the new Consulting Managers. We have about 8 Consulting Managers now. The 7 other Consulting Managers have about 15-25 Team members. I have about 120 Consultants in my team. I have 10 direct Coachees' and each of them have anywhere between 2-4 Coachees. The model currently is 4 levels deep. My relationship with my direct Coachees are great. However, I still see a lot of struggle in the levels below. Since Coaches don't have Managerial responsibility or authority, they don't feel like they can make any changes. Since they are not getting compensted for being a Coach, they don't have any motivation. 

Bottom-line, Consultants feel like they are in an island without being connected, without being recognized, without having a Manager to help them. 

Do any of you have this model in your organization? Is it working well? If so, do you have any recommendations? Has anyone heard of this model? What can we do to make this model better?

With 300 Consultants, we can't have all Consultants report directly to the Consulting Managers. How can we make this model work? 

Any thoughts/suggestions/recommendations on this is greatly appreciated.

Again, my apologies for the long narrative. 

jrb3's picture
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Yes, I recognize this.  I've been in a few organizations which had this, all smaller than yours.  Best as I can figure, someone up the hierarchy wanted to sugarcoat the role power of managers, and ended up obfuscating and scattering it.  Much needless frustration and wasted time, energy, and creativity spent which couldn't go to attending on customers.  Turnover from good people leaving out of disappointment (both workers and customers) followed each time.

It seems like you've got an imbalanced management structure without anyone actually managing.  What we grouse about before walking away usually is some variation of get a reasonable number of clear managers, so that none are spread thin, so management happens and we see it happen, and so non-management roles can come into and out of existence as needed.  I've seen quite a few places where a senior technical role of "coach" spreads expertise around and lets everyone else focus on productive work.

Now, concerns about non-billable personnel are justified;  we who are 'overhead' have to earn our keep by making the others more effective.  At 120 consultants, you need four levels to keep everyone connected and no-one overloaded.  That's an unavoidable cost of sustainably doing business.  The 30-40 folks in 'overhead' will need to serve the rest.  Given that you have three layers reporting to you, you have leeway to rework your own structure to address the issues you mention.  Maybe 6-8 consultants per supervisor (team lead?), 4-6 supervisors per manager, 4-6 managers reporting to you, with one team of 4-6 plus a manager assigned the Coaching  role reporting to you as well.  Tweak to fit to workload and experiment to find what best allows your organization to be worth it to your customers and clients.

Well, that's my two cents on a possible way forward.  Good luck on crafting a workable resolution to your present situation!

deepak_vg's picture

Thanks for your thoughts and feedback! Lots to think about here...